February 8, 2016

Wife and brother of jailed Upstate Ponzi scheme leader now face charges


Ronnie Wilson (Atlanticbullionandcoin.com)

Ronnie Wilson (Atlanticbullionandcoin.com)

More charges have been filed against former Anderson County councilman Ronnie Wilson and members of his family over a Ponzi scheme that prosecutors say he operated.

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday that the 67-year-old Wilson — who is already serving a 19-year prison sentence for the scheme — was indicted along with his wife Cassandra Wilson, of Woodruff, and brother Timothy Wilson of Martin, Tennessee. A grand jury handed down a charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice and hide assets. The former councilman was also charged with making false statements to federal agents.

Authorities say Cassandra and Timothy helped Councilman Wilson stash at least $400,000 in cash, gold, and silver before a court-appointed receiver could find the money and try to disburse it to investors Wilson had defrauded though his business Atlantic Bullion and Coin.

“(The Wilsons) hid assets that should have been turned over to the receiver’s office in 2012,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Watkins told reporters in a Tuesday press conference.

The indictment states Ronnie Wilson hid the money in ammunition canisters, giving one to his brother in April 2012 and another to his wife a few months later. Prosecutors said Cassandra did not tell investigators about the money during a deposition this past February. The indictment also states Ronnie Wilson lied to a Secret Service agent when he told the agent he had not transferred or hidden any assets.

Wilson pleaded guilty in 2012 to federal charges of mail fraud. Prosecutors said Wilson did not buy silver like he was supposed to and created fictitious account statements for clients that showed their silver holdings when, in fact, he had not bought any silver for them. He also claimed to trade the silver by buying at low prices and then selling at peak prices to earn profits. Watkins said those were phantom trades and that Wilson used the money received from clients for his personal benefit. Prosecutors say Wilson also used money from newer clients to make pay outs to earlier clients when these earlier clients requested draws on their accounts. Three other people have been sentenced for their part in the scheme.

U.S. Attorney for South Carolina Bill Nettles said the discovery of Wilson’s hidden assets could help some investors get back at least some of their lost money.

“We take this very seriously about recovering money on behalf of victims who have been defrauded,” Nettles said. “What we’re doing is trying to get their future back. I mean, he stole their future and now we’re trying to get a part of that future back.”

If convicted, the three Wilsons could each face five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.

On top of that, Ronnie Wilson could face an additional 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for the new lying charge.

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